Lifesaving equipment has been installed in Speyside to increase safety on Scotland’s fastest flowing river.
Fire crews in Fochabers have raised £1,000 to pay for the rings to be set up at three locations where people are known to venture close to the banks and into the water.
Yesterday campaigners who have helped push for the improvements, including the Coastguard service, local residents, council staff and elected representatives, were on the banks of the River Spey to inspect the bright orange belts.
And it was revealed that a donation of a further £600 from Mosstodloch-based firm Olleco would help to provide two more sites along the lower Spey in the coming months.
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Dave Crawford, crew manager at Fochabers fire station, said: “There’s nothing here and we wanted to do something to improve that.
“The summer is a busy time and you get quite a lot of kids swimming in the Spey near Garmouth and Fochabers and Spey Bay is a big attraction for tourists.
“We identified three locations due to the high volume of people so that if something does happen a member of the public can use it before we arrive.”
The three rings have been installed near the cricket ground in Fochabers, on the eastern bank next to the Garmouth viaduct and at Tugnet next to the Scottish Dolphin Centre.
Colin Wood, a senior Coastguard officer based in Buckie, said the rings would provide extra time to help save lives which could prove crucial in an emergency situation.
He said: “It gives somebody the chance to float, which means we have a better chance of rescuing them.
“One of the big things we want to do is try to encourage people not to go in after people, which can often make it worse, so they’ve got string attached so they can be thrown in by members of the public to pull people back to shore.”
Fochabers Lhanbryde councillor David Bremner added: “There had been difficulty getting permission for sites for these so it was good the council was able to identify some sites for them to go, which groups were happy to host.
“Hopefully we never have to see them used. It doesn’t take a huge amount of water coming down though for someone to get swept away.”
23 years of campaigning finally pays off
A Spey Bay resident who has campaigned for more water safety improvements for the last two decades was among those at the ceremony to mark the life-saving rings being installed.
John Wright’s home overlooks the mouth of the river and the angler has a keen understanding of how dangerous the currents can be.
For the last 23 years he has encouraged more to be done to help stop people getting into difficulty in the water.
Yesterday he joined the emergency services in welcoming the improvements.
He said: “It can be very busy here during the summer. I watch kids throwing stones into the river. Sometimes they go in after them and it doesn’t take much to get knocked off your balance.
“I used to be a member of a local fishing club and it was talked about a few times but nothing was done. It’s nice to see it now.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “It’s a superb idea to have these rings placed at strategic locations on the lower Spey.
“Given that the river is the fastest flowing in Scotland it’s very important that every precaution is taken to help save lives.”